Dragon fruit or Pitaya grows best in uniformly distributed rainfall throughout the year. It prefers free draining soil with sandy to clay loam types, 5.3 to 6.7 pH and high organic matter. However, Pitaya is also grown successfully in sandy soils. It is shallow rooted with most roots concentrated on top 15- 30 cm soil depth. It can tolerate harsh dry conditions but only for a limited time, preferably with 30% shade to full sun as Pitaya grows slowly when shaded. The recommended optimum elevation is 100 to 800 meters above sea level. The life span is around 20 years depending on the durability of the trellis. Concrete posts with iron round bar on top were used to support the plants. This has to be established three weeks prior to crop establishment.
(Source: Pinoybisnes.com, Date accessed: 20 March 2014)
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Recommended planting distance is 3 meters between concrete posts and 4 meters between rows. A narrower spacing gives quicker production than larger spacing. Higher density plantings produce quicker returns, but plants will begin to crowd each other sooner.
Planting is done at 3 to 4 plants per post; rooted cuttings may be planted directly or kept in 9″ x 13″ black polyethylene bags. For direct rooted cuttings, position the plant 15 cm away from the post at an angle leaning towards the post. Direct planting is 5 cm depth, while for transplants; hole depth should be same as height of plastic bag's soil depth. Irrigate and protect newly emerging foliar buds from ants and other insects. In addition, pruning is a regular orchard operation regardless of age of Pitaya, prune to obtain an open, manageable and productive umbrella shaped canopy.
Apply a handful of complete fertilizer (14-14-14) 3 months after planting and continue fertilizer applications every 3 months thereafter. Pitaya also requires organic matter. Nitrogen is necessary during the vegetative growth of the plant and is reduced during dormant and pre-flowering stages (later December to mid-March). Apply foliar sprays every 2 weeks during vegetative stage and less during fruiting stage.
Frequency of fertilizer application varies according to personal judgment and preferences. Optimum frequency and quantity depends on the plants response. Pitaya is very responsive to soil and foliar fertilizer applications.
Pest and Diseases
The roots, stems, foliar and flower buds, flower and fruit are attacked by a range of pests and diseases. Pests include mites, thrips, ants, scale insects, mealy bugs, beetles, slugs, borers, nematodes, fruit flies and rodents such as mice, birds, or bats. Chlorpyrifos-based insecticides may be used to control ants and other pests as well.
Copper-based fungicides (copper, copper oxychloride, dithane M45, cupravit, mancozeb, etc. can be applied at appropriate dosage and spray as needed. Systemic fungicides such as benomyl, carbendazim, azcxystrobin,etc. are also effective in wide range of pitaya diseases.
Avoid, however, pesticide spraying when nearing harvest time. Bagging of green fruit using clear perforated polyethylene bags (China-made) are recommended to protect fruit from fruit fly stings.
Gasoline-driven weed cutters are recommended for orchards. Handweed within the inner 30 diameter of each post to avoid damage to plants. Control weeds as they harbor pests and compete with soil nutrients.
Water requirement of Pitaya is similar to papaya. Irrigation is critical during fertilizer applications and fruiting. Excess drying of soil and less frequent irrigation results in abnormal high splitting of fruit. For newly planted
Pitaya, allow soil to dry before irrigation to avoid rots.
Harvesting indices include full red coloration of the terminal petal and swelling of the navel end to the point of cracking. Based on Davao planting, harvest period include: First Cycle of harvest –June- October; 2nd Cycle of harvest December- January.
- Fruit is harvested from 30-50 days after flowering
- 5-6 fruit crop cycles a year (between May and November)
- Stored at 5°C with 90% relative humidity and can be stored for up to 40 days
- Average weight per fruit ranges from 200 to 1.2 kg
Source: Pinoybisnes.com, Date accessed: 20 March 2014